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Work begins on the first state park in Genesee County

This map from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shows the five park units that will be connected by the creation of Genesee County's newest state park.This map from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shows the five park units that will be connected by the creation of Genesee County's newest state park.

This map from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shows the five park units that will be connected by the creation of Genesee County’s newest state park.

GENESEE COUNTY — Construction on Genesee County’s first state park began June 24, and it will bring a major transformation to the Flint River, according to a news release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The ongoing work is an important step toward restoring continuous access to the Flint River, which has been missing for more than a century, according to the DNR.

In addition, the work will open an additional 25 miles of waterways to benefit recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing and fish ladders.

The approximately 230-acre state park will stretch along a three-mile stretch of the Flint River and Swartz Creek, connecting five park units and hiking trails.

These units include:

• Chevy Commons

• Riverbank Park

• Mott Park Recreation Area

• Happy Hollow Nature Area

• Vietnam Veterans Park

Four of the five units are currently open, with Happy Hollow set to open soon, according to the DNR.

Right now, the focus is on the Riverbank Park Unit. The City of Flint has leased the property to the state to create the park. Construction crews are working to install a river rapids before demolition of the remaining Hamilton and Fabri Dam structures begins in July.

Rapids are collections of boulders along a river bank. Rapids mimic rapids and help control water levels without harming the environment or causing flooding. A total of six rapids are planned to be installed in the river bank park area.

The dam structures were previously classified by the state as high-hazard dams. The Hamilton Dam’s “superstructure” was removed in 2018, and work to remove its concrete weir, or the barrier that stretches across the river and affects river levels, began in 2023.

Partners in this project include Genesee County Parks, the City of Flint, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

About $30.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds were proposed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2022 and later approved by the state legislature for the development of a new park. The funds were allocated as part of $273 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that were part of a $4.8 billion infrastructure package included in Whitmer’s Building Michigan Together plan.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation also contributed an investment of $18 million, which was supplemented by another $23 million in state ARPA funds. Together with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, a $41 million endowment was established to ensure the long-term operation and maintenance of the park.